A Human History

Book - 2003
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Baker & Taylor
Traces the history of coal from its formation three million years ago through its role in industry and disease, including its part in the establishment of China as a twelfth-century superpower and in the American Civil War.

Perseus Publishing
Prized as "the best stone in Britain" by Roman invaders who carved jewelry out of it, coal has transformed societies, powered navies, fueled economies, and expanded frontiers. It made China a twelfth-century superpower, inspired the writing of the Communist Manifesto, and helped the northern states win the American Civil War. Yet the mundane mineral that built our global economy -and even today powers our electrical plants-has also caused death, disease, and environmental destruction. As early as 1306, King Edward I tried to ban coal (unsuccessfully) because its smoke became so obnoxious. Its recent identification as a primary cause of global warming has made it a cause célèbre of a new kind.In this remarkable book, Barbara Freese takes us on a rich historical journey that begins three hundred million years ago and spans the globe. From the "Great Stinking Fogs" of London to the rat-infested coal mines of Pennsylvania, from the impoverished slums of Manchester to the toxic city streets of Beijing, Coal is a captivating narrative about an ordinary substance that has done extraordinary things-a simple black rock that could well determine our fate as a species.

The fascinating, often surprising story of how a simple black rock has altered the course of history.

Book News
An environmental attorney for the state of Minnesota for some 12 years, Freese acquired an interest in coal while working on a legal case involving global warming and the effect of emissions from coal-burning power plants that generate electricity. She traces the history of coal use in Britain, the U.S., and China, and examines the ongoing tension between its creative and destructive capacities, the role it has played in the urbanization, centralization, industrialization, and mechanization of the world, and the severe environmental threat it poses today. Academic but accessible to the general reader. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

Traces the history of coal from its foundations three million years ago through its role in industry and disease, covering such areas as its uses as jewelry in ancient Rome, in the establishment of China as a twelfth-century superpower, and as a tool in the Civil War. 50,000 first printing.

Publisher: Cambridge, MA : Perseus Pub., c2003
ISBN: 9780738204000
Branch Call Number: 553.24 FRE
Characteristics: v, 308 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 20 cm
Alternative Title: Coal


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